From last issue, Doctor Strange, and to some extent, the Thing, got involved with no less than a physical manifestation of destiny itself. Three people were affected: the lost office worker Sheldon, the despairing punk Duff, and the wino Alvin Denton. Both Sheldon's and Duff's situation were handled last issue . Today we look at Alvin Denton and it is fitting that he gets a story all to himself because Alvin's situation is different. Here he is telling his story.
When I first read this comic I was very young and a statement like this was way over my head. Since then, I know a bit more of what life is like. I've heard, read and watched actual riches to rags tales, so Alvin's monologue has greater impact for me. This sort of thing happens to real people and it is not something to belittle. Alvin Denton has been subjected to one of the harshest human experiences - a fall from the heights. Just think what it's like to go from having a place in Manhattan and a pleasure house in Vermont to getting drunk in the subway and regaining consciousness in a park bench. Of the three people touched by destiny, Alvin Denton is the most pitiable. Everybody touched by destiny will - according to destiny herself - fulfill their destiny. Their belief will manifest itself as was shown last issue in the cases of Sheldon and Duff. I wonder what belief Alvin Denton has and how will it manifest?
I also mentioned that Alvin was unique. What makes him unique isn't his circumstance. What makes him unique is that he is the father of one Barbara Denton.
As you can see Barbara is quite mad, as in "crazy". She's been warped by her experiences in another dimension. Barbara is an occult practitioner who took things too far. She was kidnapped and toyed with by supernatural creatures that have driven her insane. Her story can be found in early issues of The Defenders..
Now it's about to get really complicated because Barbara is also Brunnhilde.
Brunnhilde, one of Odin's Valkyries, the vaunted Choosers of the Slain. What?! You say? I know, I know, it's all pretty crazy and I think I'm missing some parts of the jigsaw myself. Here are the pieces that I do have:
It starts with the Enchantress. She uses her power to infuse Barbara with the esssence of Brunnhilde, changing her into the familiar Valkyrie from the pages of The Defenders.
Now I know that Brunnhilde isn't magically created from nothing. I know she existed from way before in Asgard. For example, she features prominently in the Eternals Saga where she is shown with the other Valkyries in Asgard. So how could her "essence" be "infused"? I don't know.
Also, when Barbara becomes Valkyrie - evidently Brunnhilde gets control of Barbara's body - where does Barbara go? Is she still in there? Does she "pop out" into another dimension? What happens to Barbara when Valkyrie manifests? From reading The Defenders, I know that Val is almost always herself and does not revert to her alter ego. like, say, Thor. Where is Barbara the whole time?
The Valkyrie character is certainly one of the more complicated ones I've come across in Marvel. Looking at our current tale, I observe that there must be something of Barbara's residual memories in Val because Val does this.
What you see is Alvin Denton being snatched by his "daughter" while Brunnhilde is in control.
Doctor Strange and the Thing are still embroiled in this story. It's amusing to note, that last issue read like a Doctor Strange story while this one will read like a Defenders story. Not to leave out the Thing in his own comic, he is sent to a location by Doctor Strange (a founding member of the Defenders) where he can rendezvous with Valkyrie. On the way, Ben stops at a gasoline station where he encounters the Executioner.
Disguised as a gas boy of all things. It's a good match fightwise, the Executioner is a half-giant Asgardian, a master of weapons and war - not as strong as the Thing though. Unfortunately for Benjy the Executioner almost always never travels alone. During these days, where the Executioner walks, the Enchantress can't be far behind.
With Ben out cold, the pair avail themselves of destiny's mystic harmonica. I doubt we'll ever see that harmonica/deus ex machina after this tale but you can always file it in your Marvel trivia tidbits as one of the lesser known Marvel power objects. Destiny's Harmonica: A reality altering power object that manifests the user's belief into tangible objects or situations. With the two Asgardians having escaped, the Thing is of a mind to give pursuit but is restrained by Denton who has an unshakeable feeling that compels him to continue heading to a location in Vermont.
It is a measure of the Thing's belief in "intuition" that he prioritizes the Vermon trip - against the initial advise of Doctor Strange to pursue the harmonica instead.
Before long the pair spot Barbara Denton.
And are witness to her remarkable transformation to the Valkyrie!
Alvin Denton has lost everything, but he will always be father to Barbara. He must have remembered all the years she was in his care, all the days that she grew up under his watchful eye. His daughter. Nothing stops him from putting his arms around her, not her mystical transformation or the unsheathed sword, Dragonfang.
Little do any of us know, but this is as good a "goodbye" as he will ever give to Barbara. A father's final farewell to his daughter.
With the sudden appearance of the Enchantress and the Executioner the mystic harmonica is also produced and this happens.
Alvin Denton uses the hamonica and makes manifest his deepest belief. And what is his deepest belief? This:
The destruction of everything.
It makes sense, Alvin has destroyed his own life long ago. He manifested his utter hopelessness and surrender in his own life. A homeless drunkard. Of course, at his core is this - a belief in nothing. A belief that destroys everything.
Shortly after this obliterating act, Alvin Denton dies - presumably of a heart attack. This is a mercy I think. He has fallen too far and his life of late has been harsh - I remember him in the subway from the last story. Next we see him waking up after spending the night on a park bench. How many dismal nights and days has this man suffered? In this case, death should be a welcome release.
With everything obliterated by Denton's act only these five are left: The Thing, the Executioner, the Enchantress, the Valkyrie and Barbara Denton.
Oh yes, the magical harmonica remains too, and the fight is on for the next one to blow into the damn thing. Here's a very nice panel of the tussle between the well matched Thing and Executioner.
And now the Thing vs. The Enchantress
In the end it is the Thing who uses the harmonica next.
And what is Ben's belief? What is at the heart of a hero? Why, the return of everything of course.
What a crazy adventure this is. And just like the adventure with Daredevil, the continuation does not lie in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One, we are directed to The Defenders (#20). I leave with an opinion that Valkyrie's is a truly convoluted history - whatever writer is going to be stuck with this one it will be like untangling a ball of string. Anyway, on to the next tale . . .